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Category Archives: Thorton Lake

One of our favorite places to photograph fall colors in Hiawatha National Forest just south of Munising, Michigan. We have a route that we drive that passes a number of beautiful lakes. Sometimes the route changes a bit depending upon the number of photographers we find at any given lake. This area is a favorite destination for photography workshops so you can expect to find large groups of photographers a some locations.

More photos from Hiawatha National Forest can be found on my website.

Our first stop is usually Pete’s Lake.

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From Pete’s Lake we drive back toward Munising stopping at Moccasin Lake. There is a pull off right along highway 13. This is also a trail head for Bruno’s Run Trail which loops past a number of these lakes.

moccasin-lake-hiawatha-national-forest-16-10-3433a

moccasin-lake-hiawatha-national-forest-16-10-3456After photographing at Moccasin Lake we continued back toward Munising stopping at Thornton Lake. The turnoff for Thornton Lake is not well marked and difficult to spot if there are a lot of leaves on the trees. On this visit it was standing room only because a photography group was just packing up to leave.

thornton-lake-hiawatha-national-forest-16-10-3593

thornton-lake-hiawatha-national-forest-16-10-3626Continuing on toward Munising we turn off on Buckhorn Road and connect to Doe Lake Road. Just after turning on to Buckhorn Road you will encounter Twin Lakes.

big-twin-lake-hiawatha-national-forest-16-10-3638

reflections-big-twin-lake-hiawatha-national-forest-16-10-3643We then drove on to Doe Lake ending our fall tour of Hiawatha National Forest lakes.

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It is sometimes difficult to hit the fall colors just right. I’ve had the most success visiting Ironwood at the end of September some of the other locations I try to judge the fall colors using the Wisconsin Fall Color Foliage Report.

Gile Flowage Sunrise

Gile Flowage Sunrise

I’m starting to think about fall color trips. Typically my fall season starts with a trip to Ironwood, Michigan at the end of September. My two favorite photograph locations are Gile Flowage. Gile Flowage is a great place to start the morning by photographing the sunrise.

Gile Flowage

Gile Flowage

Later in the day I like to drive over to Copper Peak International Ski Flying Hill and make the trip to the top of the ski jump. There are some spectacular views from the top of the ski lift.

Copper Peak International Ski Flying Hill

Copper Peak International Ski Flying Hill

In mid October I like to drive over to Munising, Michigan. This is probably one of the premier fall color locations in the country. While I’m in the area there are three locations I like to visit. The first is Hiawatha National Forest. There are quite a few lakes in the forest that offer some spectacular fall color shots. The leaves turn first in the National Forest. If you are really lucky you will be in the area when the snow falls on the colors.

Thornton Lake

Thornton Lake

A week or so later the colors will turn at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Hiking along the trails above the lake offer some unsurpassed scenery. If the weather cooperates a sunset cruse on the tour boats is well worth your time.

Miners-Beach-Pictured-Rocks-National-Lakeshore-14-10-_1926

While in the area I always try to visit Seney National Wildlife Refuge. It offers some spectacular sunrise and sunset opportunities as well as a chance to photograph wildlife.

Seney National Wildlife Refuge Sunset

Seney National Wildlife Refuge Sunset

Toward the end of October I like to drive down to Baraboo, Wisconsin. There are some great photography locations in the area. Devils Lake State Park is always popular and can be crowed on a beautiful fall Day.

Devils Lake State Park

Devils Lake State Park

Gibraltar Rock offers some great views of the Wisconsin River Valley.

Gibraltar Rock

Gibraltar Rock

My favorite location is Pewits Nest. If you time it right the leaves can be outstanding. Pewits Nest is small natural gorge cut by Skillet Creek.

Pewits Nest

Pewits Nest

I’ve compiled a list of my five favorite fall photography destinations. The links go to additional photos on my website.

Black River– The black river offers some great waterfall photography but my favorite location is under the bridge at the mouth of the river where I love to take reflection shots.

Black River Harbor Reflections

Black River Harbor Reflections

Bonanza Falls – Offers great color and some intimate waterfall shots

Bonanza Falls

Bonanza Falls

Bond Falls – One of my favorite waterfalls. Expect large numbers of photographers at the start of the fall colors.

Bond Falls

Bond Falls

Copper Peak International Ski Flying Hill – Stunning views of the Lake Superior Basin. The ride to the top is a thrill in itself.

Copper Peak International Ski Flying Hill

Copper Peak International Ski Flying Hill

Hiawatha National Forest – A favorite location for fall photography offering a number of lakes that are best photographed at sunrise. See my Blog for more information on locations.

Thornton Lake

Thornton Lake

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park – Offers a wide variety of photography locations from the Lake of the Clouds, Union Bay on Lake Superior to mountain streams and waterfalls.

Lake of the Clouds

Lake of the Clouds

This week our trip of the fall was a little more extensive. Our destination was Munising, Michigan. Our drive took us through central Wisconsin on highway 29. There were spots of color and some nice color around Shawano, Wisconsin. From there we headed north to Escanaba, Michigan. There wasn’t a lot of color on this portion on the trip. We then headed north on highway 2 . The objective was to catch highway H13 through Hiawatha National forest into Wetmore, Michigan. Although the first day was a little disappointing things picked up on subsequent days.

I wanted to check out the colors in Hiawatha National Forest and see where the good color was for the next morning. Our first stop was at Pete’s Lake. As you can see the color was not at its peak but it looked like a possibility. However, I was very disappointed to see that they had logged in the park. Many of the beautiful trees that I loved to photograph had been cut down.

Pete’s Lake

We then stopped at Moccasin, Thornton, and Big Twin Lakes on the way into Wetmore. I was again very disappointed because the lakes were extremely low with lots of weeds and other debris showing. The colors were not up to previous years. Many of the birch were just turning brown rather than turning a bright yellow. By the end of the lake visits I decided than it was not worth a sunrise visit because I already had better photos of these lakes. This shot was from several years ago.

Thornton Lake

After checking into our motel and having a bite to eat we headed out to my favorite sunset location at Miners Beach in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. About halfway to the beach we encountered road construction. The highway department had applied tar to one side of the road so traffic was one way. Normally in Wisconsin we apply tar with a pea gravel coating but apparently Michigan just uses tar. It wasn’t drying right so they were having to direct traffic on to a single lane. We continued on to Miners Beach. Elliott Falls was but a trickle and there was not a lot of color. The sunset wasn’t much but I took a few shots. We decided to leave early because of the road construction. The tar was still wet and they were still directing traffic after dark so I didn’t get any tar on the car.

Miners Beach

Given the lack of really good color around Munising we decided to drive over to Seney National Wildlife Area. On the way over there was fog in the low areas so I thought it might be interesting in Seney. I was right. There was a fog over most of the ponds. If you ever wondered how many spiders were around you got a good idea on this day. The heavy dew covered the spider webs and there were literally thousands of them glistening in the sun. Even many of the trees were covered in spider webs. Seney provided some great photography opportunities with the early morning fog. We also saw quite a few Trumpeter Swans, hawks, ducks and even a Blue Heron.

Trumpeter Swans

We then headed down highway 77 toward Grand Marais, Michigan with our eventual destination Au Sable Light Station. The trees along Highway 77 had some good color. In Grand Marais we checked out the work being done in the harbor. It is undergoing a major 30 million dollar renovation. They are in the process of dredging and rebuilding a  massive breakwater in the harbor. The new rock breakwater can be seen on the right.

Grand Marais Harbor

We headed out to Pictured Rocks with our first stop was the ranger station. As we drove into the parking lot we noticed a truck with a stunning photo on the door and Petersen Photography below it. When we went into the station Paul Peterson was talking with the rangers. Petersen was an Artist in Residence at Pictured Rocks.  Check out his website for some great photos. When we drove through Grand Marais we noticed a sign for the Lake Superior Brewing Company. My wife ask how the food was and it was given rave reviews for the food and beer. We decided it would be worth a visit later in the day.

Au Sable Point Lighthouse

We drove on to the Hurricane River where the trail to Au Sable Light Station starts. We don’t walk the trail because walking the beach is much more interesting. The 1.5 mile walk is along a combination of beach and rocks. Depending upon the water levels and wave action you should have no problem hiking along the beach. Along the way there are a number of old ship wrecks that can be found. The first is not far from the Hurricane River parking lot and the others are just before the Light Station. This year the lake appeared to be low and the wrecks were more exposed than I had seen them in the past. It was a beautiful day for a walk and photography.

Ship Wreck

After the hike we decided to drive back to Grand Marais and have an early dinner at the Lake Superior Brewing Company. It was well worth the drive back to Grand Marais. The food and beer were as advertised with a nice variety of both. The only problem I had was there was too much food. I’ve been trying to lose a little weight and having a half pound olive hamburger with fries didn’t help.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Beach

After dinner we decided to drive back along highway H58 to Grand Marais. The colors were outstanding with the late evening backlighting. I suspect they will reach their peak around the first weekend in October. On the drive back we stopped at Kingston Plains in the Lake Superior State Forest to take a few photos. This area was repeatedly burned off during the logging era. It is speculated that the fires were so hot that it virtually sterilized the earth. Trees are growing now but it has been a long process of regeneration.

Kingston Plains

We expected to reach the Munising area around sunset and normally would have stopped at Miners Beach but decided that they were probably still working on the road and I didn’t want to risk getting my car covered with tar. Our second choice for sunset photos was Sand Point in Munising. As we drove past Munising Falls I noticed that the parking lot had recently been tarred. This should have raised some red flags but it didn’t. After a couple of miles we could see that they had traffic control setup and had tarred one side of the road. We decided to head back to the motel. Too bad because it looked like a nice sunset. This photo was taken at an earlier sunset.

Sand Point Sunset

On day three we planned to take the short drive over to Marquette, Michigan. We have never stayed in Marquette and wanted to check out the photography opportunities for a future visit. We stopped at Au train Falls and Laughing Whitefish Falls along the way. Laughing Whitefish Falls was outstanding in terms of fall color but there was not a lot of water going over the falls. The fall colors on the drive to Marquette were good and probably will peak the first weekend in October.

Laughing Whitefish Falls

Our first stop in Marquette was the visitors center. It was well worth the stop. The individual who helped us was one of the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic that I’ve ever met in a visitors center. He gave us all kinds of tips on where to go and what the fall colors would be like. So many tips that it would take a long weekend to take it all in. Since this was a reconnaissance mission we are now well informed for a for a much longer visit in the future.

Marquette Harbor Lighthouse

We drove out along Lakeshore Boulevard to check out the sites along the Marquette waterfront. It was a beautiful day for sightseeing and photography. The highlights of the waterfront were the ore docks and the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse. This looks like a great place for some sunrise photography.

Lake Superior & Ishpeming Railroad ore dock

We drove out of town to  Presque Isle Park and drove the loop. This is going to be well worth a longer visit. There is a location to take sunset photographs and that’s on our list for next time.

Presque Isle Park

We decided to head up to Big Bay which is about 30 miles up the coast. The visitors center recommended a number of stops along the way and we had already noted some nice hiking trails to waterfalls. One of the recommended stops along the way was Sugarloaf Mountain. When we arrived the parking lot was full and there were cars parked all along the road. This was definitely a hot spot on a beautiful fall day. The trail to the top was well developed and nice sturdy steps had been constructed. I heard someone say that there were 182 steps but I didn’t count them. We later found out there are 304 wooden steps. The view from the top was an outstanding 360 degree view and well worth the hike. As you can see the fall colors were nice but they should really be good the first weekend in October.

Sugarloaf Mountain

We drove on to Big Bay and decided to drive out to the Big Bay Lighthouse. The Lighthouse is now a bed and breakfast but the grounds are open to the public from 10am to 4pm. We made it with 15 minutes to spare. What a beautiful location to enjoy the serenity of Lake superior. We then headed back to Marquette and after a late dinner called it a day.

Big Bay Lighthouse

On day four we headed down toward Bruce Crossing, Michigan. Our main destination for the day was Bond Falls. The colors were nice all the way to Bond Falls although there was quite a bit of fog along the first part of the trip. I told my wife we had to more it along because it would be crowded at the falls. She didn’t think very many people would be out on a Sunday morning. I thought there would and the bet was that we would see more than 30 people. Looser buys the ice cream.

Bond Falls

As it turned out I was right there were more than 30 people at the falls but not as many as I expected and I only saw three other serious photographers. I’ve made many visits to Bond Falls but this is the first time I’ve been able to visit at the peak of fall colors. Bond Falls is probably the most photographed waterfall in Michigan and for good reason. There is a lot to photograph and since the falls is below a dam the water levels are good even during this year’s drought.

Bond Falls Z

We then headed home after a very successful trip. The colors are nearing their peak all over northern Wisconsin and the U.P.

It’s the time of year when I start getting excited about the fall colors. Already some states have their fall color reports active. I started thinking about the places I would like to travel to this fall and came up with a list of my top 5 destinations. I’ve listed the ironwood area first because, for some reason, the leaves turn in this area before they do in any other area.

Ironwood, Michigan

Gile Flowage– is located just south of Ironwood, Michigan. What I like about Gile Flowage is that you can photograph at sunrise and sunset and get some great photos. In fact, at both times you can photograph the color of the trees and just turn around and then photograph the rising or setting sun.

Gile Flowage Sunrise

 

Gile Flowage Sunrise

Copper Peak International Ski Flying Hillis the largest ski jump in the world and the top of the jump is nearly 1200 feet above lake Superior. On a clear day you can see for over 40 miles. Lake Superior and the Porcupine Mountains are visible from the top. The ski jump is open on weekends during fall color season.

Copper Peak International Ski Flying Hill

 Black Riveris just down the road from Copper Peak and offers some great fall views of waterfalls along the Black River.

Rainbow Falls

  Munising, Michigan

Hiawatha National Forestis located just south of Munising and offers some great photography opportunities along the many lakes in the area. The peak colors in the national forest are usually a week or so before the colors in Pictured Rocks. Most of the lakes are best photographed early in the morning. More information can be found in an earlier Blog.

Thorton Lake

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshoreoffers some spectacular photo opportunities. The fall sunset boat cruise is not to be missed. The many mile of hiking trails through the park offer a wide range of subjects for photography.

Grand Portal Point

Seney National Wildlife Refugeis located at the eastern end of Pictured Rocks and offers some great chances for sunset and sunrise photography. Large numbers of Trumpeter Swans can be found in the Refuge.

Seney National Wildlife Refuge Sunset

WaterfallsThere are a large number of great waterfalls within a short drove of Munising. This is a shot of Laughing Whitefish Falls.

Laughing Whitefish Falls

 Baraboo, Wisconsin

 Pewits Nestis located in the southern part of Wisconsin just outside Baraboo. It’s a small gorge with a stream flowing through it. The top of the gorge is covered with large maple trees. If you hit it right the maple trees are spectacular. The gorge itself is worth the trip even after most of the leaves have fallen.

Pewits Nest

Devils Lake State ParkIs also located just outside of Baraboo. It is one of the premier Wisconsin parks and a popular destination any time of the year but particularly in the fall. We usually combine the trip with a visit to Ski-Hi Fruit Farm which lies just outside the park.

Devil’s Lake State Park

Gibraltar RockIs just a short drive from Baraboo and offers some stunning views of the Wisconsin River valley. We usually combine a visit to Gibraltar rock with a trip on the Merrimac Ferry which crosses the Wisconsin River at Merrimac Wisconsin.

Gibraltar Rock

Minnesota North Shore

There are photography opportunities all along the Minnesota North Shore from Duluth, Minnesota to Grand Portage State Park on the Canadian Border. I’ve highlighted a few of my favorites. The fall leaves turn first in the interior away from the lake. The Maples turn earlier than the Birch. Generally it will take several trips at different times to take in all of the fall color along the North Shore. If the leaves disappoint the Lake will not so there is always something to photograph.

 Gooseberry Falls State ParkThis is usually my first stop on any trip to the North Shore. I try to time my visit so I’m not there on a weekend because it is one of the most popular parks in Minnesota.

Gooseberry Falls State Park

 Tettegouche State Park –  They are building a new visitors center at the park so the visitors center will closed for the fall 2012 season. Lots of nice hiking trails into the back country.

Mic Mac Lake

Oberg Mountain – My favorite place for fall photographs on the North Shore. The top of Oberg Mountain offers stunning 360 degrees of the surrounding forests and Lake Superior.

Oberg Mountain

 Cascade River State Park is a great place to photograph any time of the year but it can be beautiful in the fall if the water level is high. Best photographed early in the morning or late in the day when the cascades are in the shade and provide a uniform light.

Cascade River

Grand Portage State Parkis located on the border with Canada. It offers spectacular views of the highest waterfall in Minnesota. Late in the fall color season the Birch Trees at the top of the falls turn brilliant colors. If you happen to be there late in the day the sun will highlight the fall colors while the falls is in the shade.

High Falls

 Crex Meadows

Crex Meadows stands alone as a destination for photography. It is a great place to photograph fall colors, sunrises and sunsets. It is also the one of the best locations in the country to photograph the fall migration of the Sandhill Cranes. You will want to plan on spending the night in Grantsburg, Wisconsin so you can take in the evening and morning flights of the cranes. About an hour before sunset the cranes start returning to the meadows. Folks bring their lawn chairs and just sit and watch them fly into their rousting grounds. You can return to the same location at sunrise and watch the cranes leaving to feed for the day in the surrounding fields. During the day you can drive the back roads south of town to watch the cranes feeding. Make sure you make the trip this year because if the Wisconsin creates a Sandhill Crane hunt you may not be able to see this spectacular event in future years. I have more details on photographing at Crex in an earlier Blog.

Sunset Crex Meadows

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes Sunset Flight